Nicolas Jaar, Nicola Cruz
With only one full-length album and a couple EP's under his belt, it was quite a surprise to see electronic artist Nicolas Jaar's show turn into the hottest ticket in town on Monday night. The standby line outside the Echoplex stretched down the sidewalk, as fans hoped to see the much-hyped Chilean-American producer's first Los Angeles show. They were right to be psyched; Jaar delivered a tremendous hour and a half set.
Opener Nicola Cruz mixed up a stew of jazzy instrumental hip-hop, more in line with the style of Low End Theory than Nicolas Jaar, known for trafficking in a more subtle electronic style. Though the beat-heavy set was rooted mostly in hip-hop, Cruz also managed to branch out into house. He excelled in the latter part of his set with a more loungey, downtempo style akin to Nightmares on Wax.
Though he played it safe for the most part, Cruz had a distinct original flavor that managed to get the crowd moving. There's something to be said for pleasing a crowd of electronic fans in L.A., who seem to be getting more finicky if your specialty doesn't currently involve dubstep wobbles and chainsaw effects. At the same venue that hosted Skrillex not long ago, the crowd on Monday night clearly preferred Nicolas Jaar's field samples and saxophone loops to the abrasiveness of a brostep set.
In fact, when Jaar took the stage at a quarter til eleven with a guitar player and saxophonist in tow, the only equipment indicating it would actually be an electronic set was his laptop and keyboard rack. The set began with a ten-minute long hazy, ambient intro, which was bolstered by the gallery of effects pedals utilized by the guitarist. The saxophone blasted through the mic, while Jaar sampled contributions from each member, looping and layering notes to create a dense atmosphere of sonic wizardry.
The rest of the set unfolded in organic fashion, constantly building towards a track more complex and heavier than the last, Jaar switching off from singing to playing keyboards. The set list was perfect, he aptly maneuvered tracks from his small yet impressive catalog. "Too Many Kids Finding Rain In The Dust" and "Space Is Only Noise," two standouts from his full-length album, turned into highlights near the end.
With the crowd clamoring for an encore, Jaar returned solo to the stage just a few minutes later, switching over to club mode with an uptempo rework of his newest track "With Just One Glance" before launching in to a couple house-inspired selections.
In the seconds leading up to the end, the bassline was sped-up and began reverberating throughout the club, almost making the Echoplex feel like a plane about to take off. With the refined level of technical prowess and extremely original style exhibited on stage last night, it's safe to say Nicolas Jaar's career is on a similar trajectory.
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Personal Bias: Any performer wearing sweatpants gets my approval.
The Crowd: Even mix of bros and French guys with weird jeans.
Random Notebook Dump: We've got to do something about these chinstrap panda hats.